Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Review – Kindle Free Time Unlimited Review

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Review – What is Kindle FreeTime Unlimited?

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is a subscription service that offers unlimited access to thousands of apps, movies, games, and books for children between 3 and 8. Think of it as Netflix for Kids’ Movies, Games, Books, and Apps.

Like Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee. This varies depending on whether or not you are an Amazon Prime customer, and whether you want the service for just 1 kid, or for more than 1 kid (up to 6 kids).

Note: No Apps with In-App Purchases are included in Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. This means you won’t get any ‘surprise’ charges for $50 worth of purple cows. Additionally, no ads in the content you get.

What can you do with Kindle FreeTime Unlimited?

You can do the following things -

  1. Get free age-appropriate movies, games, books, and apps for your children.
  2. Decide how long you want them to be able to do each activity (reading, watching movies, playing games).
  3. Set up profiles for each of them.
  4. Decide what content each of them can access (via their profiles).

Note: There are two parts, the Kindle FreeTime App (this is a free app) and the Kindle FreeTime Unlimited subscription (you have to pay for this). You can use the Kindle FreeTime App even if you don’t get the subscription – However, it’ll then allow you to access only content you’ve bought or content that is free for everyone.

You get the following characters and games and movies -

  1. You get content featuring – Cinderella (from Disney), Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, Curious George, Thomas & Friends, PBS Kids.
  2. You get content from – Disney, Nickleodeon, EA, PBS Kids, Sesame Street.
  3. You get 200+ apps and games including – Plants vs Zombies, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Tetris, Dora the Explorer Apps, Monopoly Millionaire, Bejeweled 2, SpongeBob SquarePants Apps, Where’s My Water, Where’s My Perry, Drawing Pad, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Thomas & Friends, Kids’ Puzzle Games, Find the Difference and Hidden Object Games (just a few), Apps and Games featuring the characters mentioned above, Arthur Apps,
  4. In all you get 1,618 total apps, movies, and books. There are 217 games and apps. There are 1,014 Kindle Books. There are 355 movies and TV shows.

You can see the entire list of Kindle FreeTime Unlimited content at Amazon.

What devices is Kindle FreeTime Unlimited available on?

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is available on -

  1. Original Kindle Fire.
  2. Kindle Fire 2. Now referred to as just Kindle Fire.
  3. Kindle Fire HD.
  4. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″.

It’s only available on Kindle Fire tablets. It is NOT available on eInk Kindles, iPads, etc.

What can you do with Kindle Free Time?

Kindle FreeTime is a free app on Kindle Fire HD and other Kindle Fires that lets you do the following -

  1. Select what Apps and Games and Books and Movies are available for your kids. You can create up to 6 profiles and then you can choose what content (out of the content available via Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, and the content you’ve bought) is available to each kid.
  2. Select daily time limits for each type of activity (reading books, watching movies, using apps).
  3. Select which categories are allowed. So you could turn off movies for one kid and turn off apps and games for another.
  4. When Kindle FreeTime mode is on, browsing the Internet and purchasing are disabled.
  5. Kindle FreeTime is available even if you don’t subscribe to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.

Kindle FreeTime is a very useful App. You can take a quick look on your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD and see how you like it.

How can you start the Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Subscription?

It’s easy to try out (or enroll for) Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.

  1. On your Kindle Fire main page, tap on Apps.
  2. On the App page, find the icon for ‘Kindle FreeTime’ and tap on it.
  3. Set up a Kindle FreeTime password.
  4. Set up profile(s) for your child (children).
  5. Tap on one of the Subscribe buttons. You get a button to subscribe to the ‘One Child Plan’ and you get a button to subscribe to the ‘Family Plan’ which supports up to six children.

That’s it. You’re ready to start. Please Note: There’s a one month free trial.

How much does Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Cost?

The costs are:

  1. One Child without Prime Membership – $4.99 per month.
  2. One Child with Prime Membership – $2.99 per month.
  3. Up to Six Children without Prime Membership – $9.99 per month.
  4. Up to Six Children with Prime Membership – $6.99 per month.

I think it’s a very reasonable amount. The price difference between Prime Member rates and normal user rates is a bit strange.

Pros and Cons of Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

There are some very strong pros -

  1. You get 1,014 free kindle books. There will be at least 50 to 100 books your child will be interested in. Note: Amazon is adding new content to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, but the rate seems to be a bit slow.
  2. You  get 200+ apps and games. It’s skewed towards games. There are lots of hit games.
  3. You get 355 movies and TV shows. This includes a lot of very popular series and titles.
  4. The price is very reasonable for one child, and even better for multiple children. If you’re a Prime Member then you get a lower price.
  5. The content is integrated with the Kindle FreeTime App and thus you can monitor usage and select what content your kids can access.

If you have one or more young kids between 3 and 8 years of age, Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is well worth a spin.

There are also some cons -

  1. If your kid is a fast reader, then the 50 to 100 books he/she finds interesting out of the 1,014 available will be gone in 2 to 4 months.
  2. The 200+ apps and games have some big hits but 200 isn’t a very big number. iPad has a LOT more games for kids. Your kids might get bored with the included games within 3-6 months. Perhaps sooner.
  3. 355 movies and TV shows will also run out in 2 to 5 months.
  4. It’s a monthly subscription. That means you have to pay every single month, regardless of whether your kids watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, or hardly any.
  5. The price is unfair for users who are not Prime Members. The difference shouldn’t be so much.

While Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is a really good service, its value will depend on how much additional content Amazon adds to it. Around 1,800 total books, movies, games, and apps sounds like a lot – However, keep in mind that your kid(s) will perhaps like just 100 to 300 of those. That might work out very well for the first 2-5 months. After that, your kids will be engaged by Kindle FreeTime Unlimited only if Amazon regularly keeps adding new content. I would recommend trying the one month free trial first and seeing if there’s enough content to keep your kids occupied and entertained beyond the first few weeks.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD

We just discussed Kindle vs Kobo heating up with ZDNet calling Kobo Aura HD ‘the best eReader’. It’s time to do a Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD review.

Disclaimer: I only own Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight and other Kindles and Nooks and the older Kobos. I don’t own Kodo Aura HD. So please keep that in mind.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – Context

We are comparing Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Aura HD for the crown of ‘best eReader’. We aren’t considering Tablets at all. We won’t give much weight to the price difference though we will discuss it.

Assume you have $169 and have to buy one eInk eReader. Will it be Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Aura HD?

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – Kobo Aura HD advantages

Kobo Aura HD has the following main advantages -

  1. The HD screen. This is definitely a big advantage and a very clear one. 1440 by 1080 pixels on Kobo Aura HD is considerably better than 1024 by 758 pixels on Kindle Paperwhite. Additionally the 265 pixels per inch on Kobo Aura HD are Retina display level and much sharper than the Kindle Paperwhite’s 212 pixels per inch.
  2. The Reading Experience will be better on Kobo Aura HD. The combination of the HD eInk screen and better lighting (Note: This is according to the ZDNet review – there are individual differences in screens) will make for a clearly better reading experience on Kobo Aura HD.
  3. More in-built memory and a microSD card slot. Kobo Aura HD has 4 GB of memory while Kindle Paperwhite has just 2 MB. Kobo Aura HD also has a microSD card slot. This can be very very useful if you have a ton of books.
  4. Kobo Aura HD is a latest generation eReader. If you buy Kindle Paperwhite now you definitely know the screen is a generation behind Kobo Aura HD. You also have the added fear that Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2 might be much better. With the Kobo Aura HD you are at least assured you’ll have a latest generation eReader for a year or so.
  5. By creating the ‘no compromises, best reading experience’ $169 Kobo Aura HD, Kobo has shown that it is focused on readers. Amazon seems to have forgotten readers in its pursuit of Tablets and Phones and Casual Readers and who knows what else. It might very well be the case that Kobo does a better job for readers over the next 4-6 years.
  6. ePub support which means you can buy from any store out of Nook, Sony, Kobo and the other ePub Stores. It also means your library is in ePub format and you can move freely to a Nook or Sony Reader in the future. With Kindle you are stuck with Kindle Store.
  7. [Separate since it's important] Kobo books can also be read on any other eReader that supports ePub with Adobe DRM. That includes Nook eReaders and Sony eReaders. This means that if you don’t like the next Kobo eReader you can easily switch. With Kindle you’re locked into the Kindle ecosystem (unless you decide to leave eReaders and go to Tablets).

What’s most interesting to me is that the Kindle Paperwhite Product Page and Kindle Paperwhite Reviews focus on two main strengths – the screen resolution and the reading light. Kobo Aura HD clearly beats Kindle Paperwhite on screen resolution and perhaps beats it on the quality of reading light too. Basically, Kindle Paperwhite’s two biggest strengths are now weaknesses. Kudos to Kobo for lighting a fire under Kindle Paperwhite. This will force Amazon to do something big for Kindle Paperwhite 2.

Kobo Aura HD also has the following advantages -

  1. Kobo Aura HD’s screen is 6.8″ and is slightly larger than the Kindle Paperwhite’s 6″ screen. Makes it closer to the size of a real book.
  2. Kobo Aura HD’s ridged back is apparently easier to grip.
  3. Kobo Aura HD’s light can be turned off. Additionally, there is a dedicated light on/off button. Doesn’t seem like a big deal until you are in bed and trying to start/stop reading quickly and conveniently.
  4. Kobo Aura HD supports cbz and cbr formats for comic books, while Kindle Paperwhite does not. Note: There might be a way to get comic books on Kindle Paperwhite – not sure about this area. Support for comic books is big for people who read comics.
  5. Kobo Aura HD comes with Kobo’s Reading Life ‘social reading’ feature. This gives you lots of reading stats and you also have the option to share these socially.
  6. Kobo Aura HD has more font sizes and styles. Note: To Be confirmed after actual use – However, the choice of 10 font styles and 24 font sizes and the option to choose font sharpness and weight definitely seems better than Kindle Paperwhite’s font options.
  7. Kobo is a very dynamic company and isn’t afraid to try new things. Whether it’s adding features like Kobo Reading Life or it’s taking a chance with the Kobo Aura HD (Amazon and B&N were probably offered the screen first). You know you’ll get something exciting and new from them every year.
  8. Kobo Aura HD is available in black and white. It might also be available in Espresso color too (whatever that is). Kindle Paperwhite is only available in black.

As you can see from these lists, the Kobo Aura HD is a real challenger to the Kindle Paperwhite.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – Kindle Paperwhite advantages

Kindle Paperwhite has the following main advantages -

  1. Kindle Store has the most books and the best ebook prices. When it comes to range of books and price of books, Kindle Store is the best.
  2. Kindle Store has the most free books. Indie Authors sign an exclusive deal with Amazon in return for the ability to promote their books as ‘free books’ for 5 days per 3 month period. That means two things – the most free books are in the Kindle Store (most are indie author books), the most cheap indie author books are in the Kindle Store (because they sign the exclusivity deal).
  3. Kindle customer service is stellar. Kobo Customer Service is supposed to be atrocious. Chances of you needing customer service are low – perhaps 10% to 20% of people will have any real issue. If you do, then you’ll be in trouble with Kobo. I’ve seen 2-3 reports myself of really bad customer service and none of great customer service.
  4. Kindle Paperwhite is backed by very solid infrastructure. You get reading apps for various platforms like iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. You get features like WhisperSync that sync your place in the book across devices.
  5. Amazon is probably going to be around longer than Rakuten (Kobo’s parent company). Additionally, Kindle is probably going to be around longer than Kobo. The demise of Sony eReader and the ongoing gradual decline of Nook shows that the #2 and #3 players in the eReader market aren’t as safe a bet as the #1 player. On the flip side, Kobo is very aggressive and hungry and it seems to want the #1 spot more than Kindle does.
  6. It’s a bit hard to compile a proper list of biggest strengths because Amazon spends so much time focused on the screen and the reading light. Now that they aren’t advantages, there’s not that much left apart from the store and the infrastructure.

Kindle Paperwhite also has the following advantages -

  1. I haven’t used the Kobo Aura HD so this might not be true for it. Kobo devices tend to be shoddily made. The best, when it comes to build quality, are Sony eReaders. Nook eReaders are also good. Kindle is not very good but decent. Kobo was weakest. Perhaps with Kobo Aura HD it’s changed. Perhaps not. If you can try the device out in person, I’d strongly recommend that.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite is slightly lighter (213 grams versus 240 grams) and slightly more compact (Kindle Paperwhite is 169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm, while Kobo Aura HD has Length: 175.7 millimeters, Width: 128.3 millimeters, Max Depth: 11.7 millimeters, and Edge depth:  7 millimeters).
  3. Kindle Paperwhite comes with lots of features like X-Ray which lets you get information on characters in books. With the combined information of Shelfari and (in the future) GoodReads, this will be a hard feature for other eReaders to match.
  4. IF you’re an Amazon Prime member then you get access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can loan out one book a month out of a selection of titles. There are a lot of books available but only around 100 current and past New York Times Bestsellers and the Harry Potter titles.
  5. Free WiFi at AT&T Hotspots across the US.
  6. Kindle Paperwhite has a limited app store. It’s now closed so there will not be new apps – However, there are a few hundred apps and games available.
  7. Kindle Paperwhite supports Doc and Docx formats while Kobo Aura HD does not.
  8. There is a Kindle Paperwhite 3G version available for $179 (or $199 without Ads). There’s no Kobo Aura HD with 3G.

It’s clear that Kindle Paperwhite has a lot of advantages of its own. It’s interesting to see Amazon once again in a familiar position – Not having the best hardware but leveraging a better store and a better infrastructure to remain competitive.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – The Question of Kindle Paperwhite 2

The biggest thing looming over this Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura Review is the fact that Kindle Paperwhite 2 is probably scheduled to arrive in September or October 2013.

That means, in 3 or 4 months, the discussion will be Kindle Paperwhite 2 vs Kobo Aura HD vs Nook Glowlight 2. If you aren’t in a rush, then it’s best to wait for the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2 launches in September or October. Since Kobo, Amazon, B&N all buy eInk screens from the same company (PVI/eInk) it’s likely we’ll end up with the same HD eInk screen on all three devices. Then it comes down to smaller features and store and book prices and infrastructure – a war that Kindle will perhaps win easily.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – Price and Quality of Reading Experience and Total Cost of Ownership

Price is obviously a factor. Kobo Aura HD is $169. Kindle Paperwhite without Ads is $139. Kindle Paperwhite with Ads is $119.

First, let’s add $10 for the wall charger (unless you plan on charging from a computer always). That means Kindle Paperwhite without Ads is $149. At that price Kobo Aura HD at $169 is a much better option. You get the HD screen and a microSD card slot and 2 GB of extra memory. The Reading Light is also supposed to be more evenly spread without glitches.

Kindle Paperwhite with Ads is $129 after factoring in the wall charger. That’s $40 cheaper than the Kobo Aura HD and will be very tempting for those on a tighter budget. It clearly beats Kobo Aura HD for such readers.

Finally, when factoring in Total Cost of Ownership it’s worth including two things – number of free books, resale price.

Kindle Paperwhite wins on both. Kindle Paperwhite will have much better resale value due to Amazon being a much trusted company. Kobo Aura HD has the HD screen – However, very few people know of Kobo or Rakuten. Kindle Paperwhite has a LOT more free books. Amazon has a special program for authors that leads to exclusives for Amazon. If you plan on surviving on free and cheap books, Kindle Store is the best choice and Kindle Paperwhite wins over Kobo Aura HD.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD – Which should you buy?

This is a really tough question. Some answers are easy -

  1. If money is no object, and you want the absolute best reading experience, get Kobo Aura HD. This is a really big deal. Kindle and Nook were forgetting about ‘the best reading experience’ and going for ‘the cheapest reading experience’. They were forgetting hard-core readers and targeting casual readers. It’s really good to see Kobo go for the best reading experience and cater to hard-core readers.
  2. If you already have a library of books from Kobo, Nook, or Sony – get Kobo Aura HD.
  3. If you want to be able to buy books from Kobo or Nook or Sony or another ePub store – get Kobo Aura HD. Same if you think that down the line you might want to switch to a Nook eReader or a Sony eReader. Kobo does not lock you in.
  4. If you want to do more than just read – Don’t buy either. Get a Tablet.
  5. If you have a tight budget – get a Kindle Paperwhite with Ads for $109 + charger for $10. Consider the Nook Simple Touch on sale for under $50.
  6. If you have a library of Kindle Books – get a Kindle Paperwhite.
  7. If you want the best customer service – get a Kindle Paperwhite. Note: Keep in mind that customer service might not come into play at all. However, if and when it does, Amazon is much better than Kobo.
  8. If you want lots of cheap and free books from indie authors – get a Kindle Paperwhite.
  9. If you want social features and statistics on your reading habits – get Kobo Aura HD.
  10. If you need a microSD card or want 4 GB instead of 2 GB – get Kobo Aura HD.
  11. If you want the lightest and most compact eReader – get Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Glowlight.
  12. If you want the cheapest reading option – pick a $69 Kindle WiFi or get the Nook Simple Touch when it next goes on sale (it drops to $49).

The other answers are difficult.

The safest options are -

  1. Wait for Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2 to launch. Make a call then with all the information available on Kindle vs Nook vs Kobo.
  2. Buy Kindle Paperwhite and assume that the better customer service and better infrastructure and services and the better store are worth more than the HD screen of the Kobo Aura HD.
  3. Buy Kobo Aura HD and assume that if you need customer service it won’t be great but you’ll live with it. Note: This is an easier call if you have a store nearby that sells Kobo Aura HDs.
  4. Buy both Kobo Aura HD and Kindle Paperwhite, if your budget allows it.
  5. Buy one of the very cheap eReaders for now and wait to see what the next generation eReaders from Amazon & B&N (Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2) are like. The Nook Simple Touch (the one without glowlight) is often on sale for as low as $49 and Kindle WiFi is $69.

I’d suggest #1 or #3 or #5. Truth is that having a HD screen on your eInk eReader is a big deal. If you get a Kindle Paperwhite you will know you’re missing out on the obviously better HD eInk reading experience. If you can wait, it’s worth it to see what Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2 are like. If you can’t wait, either grab a Nook Simple Touch on sale for under $50 or go with the Kobo Aura HD.

Windows Surface – Review of Features

Microsoft has revealed the Windows Surface PC today which will compete against the Kindle Fire and iPad. This is a Windows Surface Review of features.

Please Note: As we review the features we’ll keep updating this Windows Surface Review post.

Windows Surface – Top 10 Features

  1. Full desktop PC – exactly like a regular Windows Desktop but in a 10.6″ form factor.
  2. Runs Office.
  3. IvyBridge Processor for Surface Pro and ARM processor for Surface RT.
  4. Cover doubles up as multi-touch keyboard. Cover is just 3 mm.
  5. Pen Input and it automatically switches from Touch to Pen input when it recognizes pen is near.
  6. Built-in Kickstand.
  7. Type Cover available which provides a full keyboard.
  8. Gorilla Glass screen.
  9. Magnesium Case which means the Intel Surface is just 14 mm thick and weights less than 2 pounds. The RT Surface is just 9.3 mm thick (0.37 inches) and weighs just 1.5 pounds.
  10. Choice – You can get Intel Surface with higher resolution display (1920 x 1080) or the other Surface (which hopefully costs less and has 1366 by 768 resolution).

Windows Surface – Review of Top 10 Features

  1. Full desktop PC – Will believe it when I see it. Being able to use a Display Port is very cool. Microsoft is promising it’s a PC and a Tablet. Let’s see.
  2. Runs Office – This is amazing.
  3. Cover is a multi-touch keyboard. Makes the smart cover look dumb.
  4. Pen Input – This is a big deal for designers and college students and anyone else who likes to make notes or draw or scribble.
  5. IvyBridge – Will have to see actual specifications. This is really good. Arm Processoer – let’s see what this is like.
  6. Less than 2 pounds – Will have to see how it feels when using.
  7. Built-in Kickstand – This is a big win. So you can stand up your Tablet. Can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to do this with Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet.
  8. Gorilla Glass – Necessary.
  9. Type Cover – The option to get an optional cover that is a full keyboard is very very cool. I fall into the 95% of the population that can’t type as well or as fast on a glass screen as on a keyboard and this will be a life saver. Wonder if this is much better than the touch cover or not.
  10. Two different models – Great since people who don’t mind a normal, good display (and don’t need to see every pixel in all its natural glory) can go for the lower priced option.

Windows Surface – Other Details

  1. Dual WiFi Antennae.
  2. Trackpad in the Touch Cover.
  3. Full-size USB port. Oh Thank God.

Here’s a video:

Update: Windows Surface site is now up.

Windows Surface RT vs Windows Surface Pro (Intel)

What are the differences?

  1. Windows Surface RT will be competitively priced with ARM Tablets. That might mean $500 to $800.
  2. Windows Surface Intel will be competitively priced with Ultrabooks. That might mean $1,000 to $1,500. This will be called Windows Surface Pro
  3. Windows Surface Pro will be available 3 months after the first one.
  4. Surface RT is 9.3 mm (0.37 inches) thick and 1.5 pounds in weight. Surface Pro is 14 mm thick and weighs 2 pounds.
  5. Surface Pro has a higher resolution screen at 1920 by 1080.
  6. Both have – microSD, USB, video out, front and rear cameras.
  7. Surface RT will have up to 64 GB of storage. Surface Pro will have up to 128 GB of storage.
  8. Surface RT might be available in October when Windows 8 launches.
  9. Both have 10.6 inch 16:9 screens.

Windows Surface – The Big Unknowns

  1. What will the price be? Obviously the biggest unknown. It’s supposed to be competitive with Ultrathins and Thin and Light PCs. Update: The lower end model would be priced to be competitive with ARM tablets. Does that mean around $500 to $700. That would be super.
  2. What will the battery life be? This is another big unknown.
  3. What are the full specifications? Would be nice to know processor speed, RAM, other details.
  4. When will it be available? From where? In which countries? If they don’t make it available in Canada at launch we’ll have to shut off the oil pipelines.
  5. Capacity – 32 GB and 64 GB. Intel Surface will have higher capacities.

I’ll update this Windows Surface Review of the features once more details trickle out. Details included updates from The Verge Windows Surface Live Blog and Mashable Windows Surface Live Blog and MSNBC GadgetBox.

Kindle 4 Review (Kindle 4 Review, Photos)

Having played with the Kindle 4 it’s time to write a proper review. This Kindle 4 Review will cover – Review Assumptions, A Detailed Kindle 4 Review, Kindle 4 Photos, Upgrade Recommendations (if you have Kindle 3 or Kindle 2).

For the Kindle 4 Photos (including Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3 Comparison Photos) please jump to the second half of the post.

Kindle 4 Review – Assumptions

This is a review of the Kindle 4. Review = Helping someone decide whether or not to buy it.

It’s not for you if you’ve already bought a Kindle 4 or have already decided to buy a Kindle 4. You will probably not like the fact that we point out a somewhat long list of mostly minor negatives.

We’ll start off with three assumptions -

  1. We are looking at whether Kindle 4 is a great eReader. The most important criteria being – ability to find and buy books easily, the reading experience, the value for money. Some other important criteria – battery life, ease of use, portability, the actual price, reading related features, resale value.
  2. We value ‘value for money’ over raw price. This Kindle 4 Review will focus on answering two questions – Is Kindle 4 good value for money? Is it the best value for money (especially since Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 are just $20 more)?
  3. We are in a very competitive environment and Kindle 4 co-exists with other options. Thanks to the Kindle vs Nook vs Kobo battle and the various Kindles on offer – we get to choose the very best option.

On with the Kindle 4 Review.

Detailed Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Best Things

  1. The very low $79 price. If your primary criteria is to buy the cheapest eReader possible – then Kindle 4 is the clear winner.
  2. Very good Value for Money. This also shows up on Top 5 Negatives list because it offers lower value for money than Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch. However, at $79 Kindle 4 is incredible value for money.
  3. Kindle Store and Kindle Infrastructure. You get a connection to the best eBook Store and get Amazon’s amazing infrastructure to support you.
  4. Great Reading Experience if you ignore the things that are at the periphery. The eInk Pearl screen makes for a great reading experience.
  5. Very light and compact. It’s just 6 ounces and it’s 18% smaller in size than Kindle 3.

Basically, if you look at the most important qualities an eReader should have i.e. easy to find and get books, good reading experience, value for money – Kindle 4 does very well on all three. The problems start when we look at the other qualities an eReader should have (the ones that aren’t deal breakers but will still have an impact on the overall experience).

In a nutshell – Kindle 4 is a good eReader but misses out on being a great eReader.

Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Worst Things

  1. The decision to have neither a touchscreen nor a keyboard is a big mistake. It makes everything awkward and/or adds additional steps everywhere – bookmarking pages, changing font settings, highlighting, entering a website address, doing a search, note-taking (more on that later), etc. There are lots and lots of things that are slower and/or painful on Kindle 4.
  2. Kindle 4 is far less value for money than a Kindle Touch or Kindle 3. My estimate would be – Kindle 4 is worth around $100 in value, Kindle Touch is worth around $160 to $180, Kindle 3 is worth around $160 to $170. It might be $20 cheaper than the other two options – However, it provides less bang for the buck.
  3. If you like taking notes then Kindle 4 is pretty much out of the question.
  4. Kindle 4 doesn’t have speakers so text to speech is impossible and you can’t play music on it.
  5. 50% less battery life than other Kindles and 50% less memory (actually 60% less than Kindle 3).

If this is your first Kindle then some of these things are things you’ll never realize – so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

In a nutshell - If the extra $20 is not an issue, then Kindle 4 just isn’t very compelling when compared with Kindle Touch and Kindle 3.

Kindle 4 Review – Core Reading Experience

Kindle 4 shines here. The eInk Pearl screen is the same as the Kindle 3’s and it’s great for reading. The background is now whiter and there is a black border around the screen that helps bring out the contrast better.

The screen is flashed only on every 6th page turn which makes page turns faster and less annoying (if the flash bothers you).

It’s easy to get books and you still have 60 second downloads.

One slight negative here is that the page turn buttons are now even smaller and harder to get to. Of course, this is a very personal thing and people’s opinions will vary wildly.

Overall, the Core Reading Experience is superb.

Kindle 4 Review – Things that prop up the Reading Experience

This is where the Kindle 4 runs into trouble.

Making a bookmark, adding a highlight, adding a note, changing the font, doing a search – everything is now slower or takes more steps. If you like making highlights and taking notes then Kindle 4 is ruled out.

Adding a highlight now involves – Pressing down on the 5-way, getting a menu and choosing ‘Start Highlight’ (usually the first option), moving the cursor, pressing 5-way again, getting a menu and choosing ‘End Highlight’ (always the first option).

It also involves two screen flashes.

If you’ve owned a Kindle 3 it might be rather annoying – especially when everything else also involves extra steps. If you’ve never owned a Kindle – then there’s no frame of reference and you might not mind it.

In Summary – Things that support the reading experience are now neither smooth nor intuitive. It takes away from the great core reading experience and turns the Kindle 4 from a great eReader to a merely good one. It’s still an absolute steal at $79.

Kindle 4 Review – Looking at the Product Page

Here are a few things worth discussing -

  1. The lightness and compactness are indeed very impressive. If possible, visit a Staples and check it out in person.
  2. The memory capacity is quite enough if you plan on reading just books from Amazon. If you plan on adding PDFs etc. then 1.2 GB of available memory might not be enough. Also, there is no SD Card so you can’t expand.
  3. eInk Pearl Screen – It was beautiful on the Kindle 3 and it’s slightly improved here (Not enough to warrant an upgrade).
  4. Kindle Library Book Support – Amazing Feature. Finally coming for all Kindles and Kindle 4 benefits from this.
  5. Read in Sunlight. One of the big selling points of eInk (along with the fact that it’s much easier on the eyes for approximately 50% of people).
  6. Battery Life – 1 month is quite enough for most people. If you want more, get the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch.
  7. Simple to Use – Yes. However, Amazon has made a mess of things like highlighting and note-taking.
  8. WiFi. This is a great feature to have. Browse the Internet, Shop in the Kindle Store, etc.
  9. Faster Page Turns. Yes, and the screen flashes only on every 6th page turn.
  10. PDF Support. The screen is too small for PDFs. You can put the PDF in landscape mode – However, the 6″ screen is just too small.
  11. Kindle Store – An undeniable advantage. The widest range of new ebooks and the best prices.
  12. Access to Public Domain books – Available on all eReaders.
  13. Whispersync and Kindle Reading Apps – a Definite plus. You can start reading on Kindle 4 and finish on your Android Phone or iPad.

Kindle 4 is a very solid eReader. It’s not a very big leap from Kindle 3. More like a Kindle 3.25 rather than a Kindle 4. However, at $79, it’s certainly worth considering.

Kindle 4 – Should you Upgrade?

Short Version

  1. Kindle 2 – Please look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first.
  2. Kindle 3 – No. All you gain is a marginally better screen (and perhaps one or two other things). You give up a lot.
  3. Kindle 1 – Look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first. The move from Kindle 1’s sturdy size and largish keyboard to Kindle 4 might be too much of jump.

Longer Version

With every new device there are some changes people love and there are some changes people don’t really care for. However, Kindle 4 is different in that Kindle 4 doesn’t seem like it’s meant for the people who bought Kindles and Kindle 2s and Kindle 3s.

It’s perhaps meant for people who want a really cheap reading device. Amazon has done a great job for them – $79 is a stunning price.

It is unlikely that Kindle 4 will satisfy existing Kindle owners. While Kindle 4 doesn’t compromise on the core reading experience (it’s superb), it compromises on so many of the supporting elements (note-taking, searching, highlighting, etc.) that it just isn’t worth an upgrade. Kindle 4 is a good, solid eReader and it’s not as good as Kindle 3.

That brings us to our Kindle 4 Photos.

Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Photos

All the photos are after the jump i.e. Click on the read more link.

Continue reading

Kindle version Reviews for Wind-Up Girl & Year of the Flood

Not sure why 3 am through 8 am has turned into ‘Read Books on Kindle for PC’ time, but it has.

Fortunately, read two real gems in the last few days.

Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s $7.39 and could be categorized as one or more of – Steampunk, Science Fiction, A Story of Redemption, High Tech Fantasy, A Story about What Makes us Human.

This won both the 2010 Hugo and the 2009 Nebula. It shared the former with The City & The City by China Meiville.

It’s beyond breathtaking. It’s full of people who are human in the best sense and in the worst sense – sometimes both at the same time.

There are various threads that you might like -

  1. Fighting for your country’s integrity.
  2. Trying to build/rebuild a fortune.
  3. The dangers of corporations.
  4. The dangers of genetic engineering.
  5. The race against diseases and virus mutations.
  6. The vulnerability of the wind-up girl.
  7. The sense of being an outsider and xenophobia.
  8. The hatred of technology and the worship of it.
  9. The politics underlying everything.

You will probably not like it if you believe that we’re bound to find a replacement for fossil fuels in the near future. You will probably dislike it intensely if you like everything to be very technically perfect, i.e. you expect the book to have the scientific rigor of a peer-reviewed paper (not that that means anything these days).

Reading The Wind-up Girl is as intense as watching an entire season of Jersey Shore in one sitting – except at the end you feel there is hope for the human race.

The downside – Mr. Bacigalupi has 2 novels and 1 set of short stories in the Kindle Store and that’s it. Yet another brilliant author who hasn’t written enough books.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. This is a follow-on to Oryx and Crake and runs pretty much parallel to it.

With all due apologies to Margaret Atwood the environmental mumblings and poems ensure this book isn’t in the same league as either The Wind-Up Girl or Oryx and Crake.

It’s a beautiful story, yet each chapter begins with a painfully bland single-page write-up of some environmental nonsense festival and a poem that is equally appalling. Even if your heart bleeds for the Earth your eyes will be bleeding after reading all of these. Better to just skip them as they have nothing to do with the story itself.

The story is absolutely beautiful. The writing is stellar. Basically, if you rip out the 1-page environmental thingies and the poems this is a superstar book – just as good as Oryx and Crake, and in some ways, better.

There are quite a few things that are pretty amazing.

  1. Margaret Atwood captures that ‘love of my life’ feeling some/all girls seem to have. The tendency to start feeling that one man is the most amazing man in the world and the inability to ever get over him.
  2. The book captures the fact that there are often things we don’t want to acknowledge that do exist. In places it is rather brutal.
  3. It’s a very good accompaniment to Oryx and Crake. In some ways the characters are easier to grow fond of than the characters in Oryx and Crake – actually, in a lot of ways.
  4. It’s a very comfortable story with very unsettling things. You will be reading along smoothly and then realize that a rather unsettling notion has just been thrown in.
  5. It captures the Corporations/Progress vs Humanity/Earth aspect perfectly.
  6. It’s a plausible scenario. It’s not too hard to imagine the sort of world Margaret Atwood creates. You could argue that we are already well on our way to exactly such a world.
  7. It’s a very satisfying read – especially if you’ve read Oryx and Crake.

Not sure how it manages to be brilliant despite all the environmental cult nonsense but it does.

It’s strange how books have the ability to let you see things from someone else’s perspective but through your own eyes.

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